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Brazil: campaigners welcome court rulings in favor of indigenous land rights

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 04:53
Brazilian Indians have been protesting in Brasilia against the government's anti-indigenous proposals.Brazilian Indians have been protesting in Brasilia against the government's anti-indigenous proposals.© APIB

Indigenous activists and human rights campaigners around the world yesterday celebrated Brazil’s Supreme Court ruling unanimously in favor of indigenous land rights.

In two land rights cases, all eight of the judges present voted for indigenous land rights and against the government of Mato Grosso state, in the Amazon, which was demanding compensation for lands mapped out as indigenous territories decades ago.

Although ruling on one further case was postponed, this outcome has been seen as a significant victory for indigenous land rights in the country.

An international campaign was launched earlier this month after President Temer attempted to have a controversial legal opinion on tribal land recognition adopted as policy.

The proposal stated that indigenous peoples who were not occupying their ancestral lands on October 5, 1988, when the country’s current constitution came into force, would no longer have the right to live there. This new proposal was referred to as the “marco temporal” or “time frame” by activists and legal experts.

If the judges had accepted this, it would have set indigenous rights in the country back decades, and risked destroying dozens of tribes. The theft of tribal land destroys self-sufficient peoples and their diverse ways of life. It causes disease, destitution and suicide.

The new policy would have massively undermined the Guarani’s attempts to regain their ancestral land, most of which has been taken over by agribusiness.The new policy would have massively undermined the Guarani’s attempts to regain their ancestral land, most of which has been taken over by agribusiness.© Anon/Survival

In response to the ruling, Luiz Henrique Eloy, a Terena Indian lawyer, said: “This is an important victory for the indigenous peoples of these territories. The Supreme Court recognised their original [land] rights and this has national repercussions, because the Supreme Court indicated that it was against the concept of the time frame.”

APIB, Brazil’s pan-indigenous organization, led a protest movement, under the slogan “our history didn’t start in 1988.”

The measure is being opposed by Indians across Brazil. Eliseu Guarani from the Guarani Kaiowá people in the southwest of the country said: “If the time frame is enforced, there will be no more legal recognition of indigenous territories… there is violence, we all face it, attacks by paramilitaries, criminalization, racism.”

Survival International led an international outcry against the proposal, calling on supporters around the globe to petition Brazil’s leaders and high court to reject the opinion. Over 4,000 emails were sent directly to senior judicial figures and other key targets.

While the ruling does not end the possibility of further attacks on tribal land rights in Brazil, it is a significant victory against the country’s notorious agribusiness lobby, who have very close ties to the Temer government.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “If the judges had accepted this proposal it would have set back indigenous rights in the country by decades. Brazil’s indigenous peoples are already battling a comprehensive assault on their lands and identity – a continuation of the invasion and genocide which characterized the European colonization of the Americas. We’re hugely grateful for the energy and enthusiasm of our supporters in helping the Indians fight back against this disastrous proposal.”

Kalahari Bushmen appeal to Dalai Lama

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 04:44
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Botswana from the 17th August.His Holiness the Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Botswana from the 17th August.© Survival

The Bushmen of Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) have written a moving appeal to the Dalai Lama, who is scheduled to visit Botswana this month, criticizing their country’s government for its brutal policies and urging him to speak out.

In the letter, Bushman spokesman Jumanda Gakelebone said: “We still cannot live on our lands freely. The government makes it so that children must apply for permits to visit their parents when they become adults. We worry what the government will do when those parents pass away.

“The government still forbids us from hunting and has introduced a shoot-on-sight policy against poachers. Last year a group of Bushmen out hunting were shot at from a police helicopter. Some of them were stripped naked and beaten.

“People praise President Khama [Botswana’s President] as a conservation hero when he ignores our struggle and our country’s own courts. Yet his government is happy for mining to take place on our ancestral land.

Hundreds of Bushmen were moved out of the Kalahari and into government eviction camps.Hundreds of Bushmen were moved out of the Kalahari and into government eviction camps.© Survival International

“We are the first people of the Kalahari. We are the ones who have protected this land and the animals that live there. Why has “conservation” brought us so much suffering?”

Hundreds of Bushmen families were illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of conservation and moved into government eviction camps between 1997 and 2002, following the discovery of diamonds in the Kalahari.

Although the Bushmen won the right to return to the reserve in a historic court case in 2006, the country still has not respected its own high court’s ruling. Most Bushmen are denied access to their land by a brutal permit scheme.

They are also accused of “poaching” because they hunt to feed their families, facing arrest and beatings, torture and death under a nationwide hunting ban.

Survival International led the global campaign for Bushmen rights and is urging the Botswana government to allow them to determine their own futures.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Botswana’s President has been violating his country’s High Court ruling and trampling on Bushmen rights for over a decade now. No independent observer believes the Bushmen pose any kind of risk to the country’s wildlife, but they’re still prevented from hunting, and still being forced to get permits just to see their relatives. It’s a terrible stain on the country’s reputation that won’t be erased until they’re treated humanely, and with respect.”

Historic ruling set to decide future of Brazilian tribes

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 02:28
Brazil has seen frequent indigenous protests this year, against the anti-Indian policies of President Temer.Brazil has seen frequent indigenous protests this year, against the anti-Indian policies of President Temer.© Rogerio Assis

Brazil’s Supreme Court will next week deliver a historic judgement on tribal territories which could strike the greatest blow to indigenous land rights since the country’s military dictatorship.

The judgement will be delivered on Wednesday 16th August. Large-scale indigenous protests are anticipated, as the judges decide whether to incorporate a proposal on indigenous land rights drafted by the attorney-general’s office.

The proposal states that indigenous peoples who were not occupying their ancestral lands on or before October 5 1988, when the country’s current constitution came into force, would no longer have the right to live there.

If the judges accept it, this would set indigenous rights in the country back decades, and risk destroying hundreds of self-sufficient tribes, who depend on their land for autonomy and survival.

Brazil’s pan-indigenous organization APIB: is organizing several events and protests in the capital Brasilia and across the country in the lead up to the ruling, with the slogan: “Our history didn’t start in 1988. No to the time limit.”

President Temer's proposed legal opinion has sparked major indigenous protests in BrasiliaPresident Temer's proposed legal opinion has sparked major indigenous protests in Brasilia© Survival

Activists have speculated that the proposal is being pushed by President Temer to secure his political position. His period in office has seen single digit approval ratings, instability, and widespread protest, after the government he leads was installed in April 2016 following the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff.

If it becomes policy, this measure would be beneficial to Brazil’s ruralista agribusiness lobby, who regard land protections for indigenous peoples as an unnecessary barrier to profit.

Further details on the judgement here

The Guarani Kaiowá people in southwestern Brazil are just one of the many tribes who would be affected. They will never recover most of their land if this measure is approved.

"Our history didn't start in 1988" – major APIB campaign against the ruling. "Our history didn't start in 1988" – major APIB campaign against the ruling. © APIB

Eliseu Guarani, a spokesman for the tribe, said: “This is very hard for us… there will be no more legal recognition of indigenous territories… there is violence, we all face it, attacks by paramilitaries, criminalization, racism.”

Survival International is actively campaigning against the measure, which is illegal under international law, and has urged its supporters to take action.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Land theft is the biggest problem that tribal people face, and this proposal is little more than a land grabber’s manifesto. It’s a blatant shredding of tribal land rights, selling them out to ranchers, loggers, soy barons and other vested interests.”

Guard’s arrest backs up tribals’ claim that many Kaziranga “poachers” were innocent

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 19:00
Wife of a man killed in the forest after being called to work by the Forest Department. Kaziranga Tiger Reserve.Wife of a man killed in the forest after being called to work by the Forest Department. Kaziranga Tiger Reserve.© Survival

A forest guard in India’s notorious “shoot on sight” Kaziranga National Park has been arrested, after an incident that local people say proves their longstanding claim that many people shot as “poachers” are innocent local people.

Three villagers, one from the local Mising tribe, have been tortured and beaten by Kaziranga forest officials after selling cattle at a market. They report that officials took their money, beat them, and threatened to shoot them and claim they were poachers caught in the act.

One of the villagers managed to escape and get help. Subal Bawri, a tribal man, tried to intervene and was also badly beaten. The victims believe that had other villagers not arrived they would have been killed.

The men have made a formal police complaint against their treatment, and protests have been held by local people. They claim that this is an abuse of the legal immunity guards have been granted, supposedly to help them protect wildlife. One forest guard has been arrested.

Guards in Kaziranga National Park are armed, and have effective immunity from prosecution.Guards in Kaziranga National Park are armed, and have effective immunity from prosecution.© Agence France Presse

Subal Bawri said: “I saw the beat officer [forest guard] and two battalion men [from the Assam Forest Protection Force]. The battalion men were holding both the hands of Arshad Ali and the beat officer had a stack of money in one of his hands and a broken bottle in the other and I very distinctly heard him say, “ I will murder you with this bottle, take you by the river and shoot you.” Hearing this I got very angry and asked them if they are Gundas [villains]. I also said that the government is giving you this uniform and also spending so much money for you to do your duty in Kaziranaga, have you come here to murder? So this is how you have been framing innocent people as poachers and you are protecting the real ones.” He was subsequently grabbed by the throat and beaten by two officers.

Witnesses report hearing the guards specifically threaten to shoot two of the men and claim they were poachers.

Kaziranga guards have effective immunity from prosecution and are instructed to shoot poaching suspects on sight. 106 people were reportedly killed there in a twenty year period, including a severely disabled tribal man who had wandered over the park’s unmarked boundaries.

Tribal people testify to beating at the hands of forest gaurds, KazirangaTribal people testify to beating at the hands of forest gaurds, Kaziranga© Survival

The park was the subject of a BBC report, “Killing for conservation,” after Survival International led a global outcry over the “shoot on sight” policy, and over the shooting of a seven-year-old tribal boy in July 2016. The boy, Akash Orang, is now maimed for life.

Several Kaziranga park officials have been arrested for involvement in the illegal wildlife trade, despite being employed to protect the endangered one-horned rhinos and tigers which live in the park.

Survival International is leading the global campaign against abuses in the name of conservation, and in favor of a conservation model that respects tribal peoples’ rights.

Many people in and around Kaziranga were moved there by the British to work on tea plantations. They face eviction, displacement, and frequent harassment by forest guards.Many people in and around Kaziranga were moved there by the British to work on tea plantations. They face eviction, displacement, and frequent harassment by forest guards.© Survival

Tribal peoples have been dependent on and managed their environments for millennia. They are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world. In one tiger reserve in southern India where tribal people won the right to stay, tiger numbers have increased at dramatically above the Indian national average.

Despite this, tribal people face arrest and beating, torture and even death, in the name of conservation.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Incidents like this show the true face of conservation as practiced in places like Kaziranga: horrendous violence and corruption among officials, with tribal people then blamed for harming the environment. It’s a con. And it’s harming conservation. When will people wake up to the fact that the current conservation model is killing tribal peoples? This sort of horror is not going to protect the rhino or the tiger.”

Serial poacher’s arrest exposes failure to protect world’s most isolated tribe

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 02:20
In the wake of the 2004 tsunami, this member of the Sentinelese tribe was photographed firing arrows at a helicopter.In the wake of the 2004 tsunami, this member of the Sentinelese tribe was photographed firing arrows at a helicopter.© Indian Coastguard/Survival

A man has been arrested for the ninth time for poaching sea turtles and illegally entering a tribal reserve in India’s Andaman Islands. The islands are home to uncontacted and recently contacted tribes, who could be wiped out if the authorities fail to protect them.

The man, named by Andaman police as Narayan Roy, and an accomplice, were found with a bag containing a dead sea turtle. Local press has reported that he had previously been released on bail nine times for “entering the Jarawa Tribal Reserve, poaching and exploitation of the tribe.”

The reserve is home to the Jarawa, who have only had contact with the settlers who have lived near their reserve since 1998. They are extremely vulnerable to violence and sexual exploitation from outsiders, diseases to which they have no resistance, and the loss of animals which they hunt to feed their families.

Although poaching in the reserve carries the penalty of mandatory imprisonment and a fine, Mr. Roy has been repeatedly released. Campaigners are concerned that this shows that the Andaman authorities lack the political will to provide the protection which the Jarawa need.

Survival International, which has been campaigning for the rights of the tribes in the Andamans for decades, has written to the Andaman authorities urging them to implement their own policies and clamp down on poaching in the tribal reserves.

As well as the Jarawa, the Andaman Islands are home to the uncontacted Sentinelese tribe, the most isolated tribe in the world. If poaching is allowed to continue similarly unchecked in other parts of the Andamans the very survival of the Sentinelese is also at risk.

Sea turtles remain a major target for poachers in the Andaman Islands, who pose a threat to tribes like the Jarawa and Sentinelese.Sea turtles remain a major target for poachers in the Andaman Islands, who pose a threat to tribes like the Jarawa and Sentinelese.© Wikimedia

The arrest follows alarming reports suggesting that poachers and illegal fishermen have been getting extremely close to the Sentinelese, who live on nearby North Sentinel Island.

Officially, India has a “hands-off, eyes-on” policy – protecting the Sentinelese from forced contact but monitoring them, from a distance, to check for problems. However, recent comments from the tribal affairs ministry in New Delhi have raised concerns that a more active approach might be adopted.

Minister Jural Oram reportedly said: “Today it is not yet clear how many of them are alive. We need to do something otherwise they will become extinct one day… making contact with the Sentinelese still remains a challenge.”

Uncontacted tribes like the Sentinelese are the most vulnerable people on the planet. They are at risk of being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

Although the Jarawa have had limited contact with settlers living near their forest for almost twenty years, they remain extremely vulnerable. In 1999 and 2006, the tribe suffered from outbreaks of measles, a disease which has wiped out many tribes worldwide following contact with outsiders.

The Jarawa have lived by fishing and foraging in the Andaman Islands for millennia. But encroachments from British and then Indian settlers have made life increasingly difficult for them.The Jarawa have lived by fishing and foraging in the Andaman Islands for millennia. But encroachments from British and then Indian settlers have made life increasingly difficult for them.© Survival

There is concern that unless more is done to protect the boundaries of the Jarawa reserve and the seas around North Sentinel Island, and to prosecute those who steal their food, the tribes could face further disasters. These tribes rely entirely on the foods they can hunt and gather from the sea and the forest in order to continue their self-sufficient ways of life.

Survival is leading the global fight for uncontacted tribes’ rights. The organization launched a film in May 2017 starring actors Sir Mark Rylance and Gillian Anderson, with the aim of spreading the message that uncontacted tribes face catastrophe unless their land is protected.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “The Indian government is responsible for ensuring that the Jarawa, Sentinelese and other Andaman tribes can determine their own futures, unmolested by outsiders. They should learn from the dreadful experiences of forced contact that took place under British colonial rule, when whole tribes were wiped out. The Jarawa and Sentinelese must have their land protected, or they face annihilation.”

Brazil’s president Temer trashes Indian rights for personal political gain

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 08:32
Major indigenous protests in Brasilia against government’s attempts to weaken indigenous rights, May 2017Major indigenous protests in Brasilia against government’s attempts to weaken indigenous rights, May 2017© Survival

The Brazilian President Michel Temer has accepted a controversial legal opinion which denies indigenous people the right to their land, and made it official policy.

The opinion states that indigenous peoples do not have the right to their land if they were not occupying it when the current constitution came into effect in October 1988.

The opinion contradicts the constitution, which clearly states that indigenous peoples have the right to exclusively occupy and use the lands which they have inhabited since long before European colonization of the country.

Brazil’s federal prosecutor’s office and eminent jurists say that this is only an opinion, and has no legal status as well as being unconstitutional.

Joenia Wapixana, Brazil’s first female indigenous lawyer said: “Our original rights are imprescriptible, so the time frame is unconstitutional.”

Luiz Henrique Eloy, a Terena Indian lawyer working at APIB, the Network of Indigenous NGOs in Brazil said: “Using this time frame is totally anti-constitutional; the constitution recognizes indigenous rights as original rights which precede any other. This [opinion] is the position of some ministers, it’s not consolidated.”

Congress is due to vote next month on whether to approve charges of corruption against President Temer. In the lead up to this vote, analysts report that the President is trying to consolidate his support among legislators, many of whom are linked to or represent Brazil’s powerful agri-business sector which is vehemently anti-Indian.

Many in the agri-business sector, particularly in the south and central states, are occupying and profiting from indigenous territories after the indigenous owners were evicted decades ago.

Campaigners fear that President Temer is prepared to seriously undermine indigenous rights for the sake of shoring up his own support.

Deputy Luis Carlos Heinze, a prominent member of the Chamber of Deputies’ Agriculture Commission, who was consulted about the opinion before it was made public said: “[Now, with this opinion], more than 90% of the [more than 700] cases [of demarcation of indigenous territories in progress] in Brazil are illegal and will be shelved."

Survival gave him its Racist of the Year Award for offensive remarks about indigenous peoples.

Indigenous organizations and NGOs in Brazil published a strongly worded press release yesterday condemning the opinion and calling for the public prosecutors’ office to suspend it.

Survival International has been campaigning alongside indigenous peoples and NGOs in Brazil against the undermining of indigenous rights, and condemns this illegal action against Brazil’s first peoples.

Indigenous South Americans condemn failure to protect uncontacted tribes as “genocide”

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 04:10
The Zo’é are a very isolated tribe, who were forcibly contacted in the 1980s. Many of them died of diseases to which they had no resistance.The Zo’é are a very isolated tribe, who were forcibly contacted in the 1980s. Many of them died of diseases to which they had no resistance.© Fiona Watson/Survival

29 indigenous organizations from across South America have come together in Brazil to slam governments for failing to protect the lives and lands of uncontacted tribes – a situation they say is tantamount to genocide.

Representatives from tribes in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Paraguay, and Venezuela, attended the large conference hosted by the Brazilian organization CTI in June 2017.

The conference condemned the “exponential increase” in violence against indigenous people across the continent and described failures to properly protect the territory of uncontacted tribal peoples as genocide.

Gold miners devastated the Yanomami between the 1980s and 1990s, and still present a genocidal threat to uncontacted members of the tribe.Gold miners devastated the Yanomami between the 1980s and 1990s, and still present a genocidal threat to uncontacted members of the tribe.© Colin Jones/Survival

Brazil has recently been under fire for cuts to its indigenous affairs agency, FUNAI. These cuts, especially those affecting teams of agents who protect uncontacted tribal territories, leave uncontacted peoples dangerously exposed to violence from outsiders, and diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

The country is unusual in having had two genocide convictions in its courts: both for crimes against indigenous peoples. The UN genocide convention was signed 69 years ago in December 1948.

FUNAI agents on a patrol. Teams like this are vital to protecting indigenous territories, but their funding is being cut by the Brazilian government.FUNAI agents on a patrol. Teams like this are vital to protecting indigenous territories, but their funding is being cut by the Brazilian government.© FUNAI

A Brazilan senator is proposing a new bill in Brazil’s congress which would designate all unauthorized entry into uncontacted tribes’ lands as a breach of the country’s “genocide law” – aimed at protecting uncontacted peoples. However, campaigners fear that the current government’s close ties to the corrupt agribusiness lobby could hinder efforts to create more robust protections.

The senator, Jorge Viana, is from Acre state, which is home to many uncontacted tribes, and also people like the Sapanawa, who were forced to make first contact in 2014.

All uncontacted tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Survival International is committed to securing their land for them, and giving them the chance to determine their own futures.

Face of evicted tribal woman projected onto Indian embassy in Berlin – as Modi arrives for G20

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 03:39
Survival protested for tribal peoples' rights at the Indian embassy in BerlinSurvival protested for tribal peoples' rights at the Indian embassy in Berlin© Survival

Survival International campaigners have projected the face of an Indian tribal woman who was illegally evicted from her ancestral land onto the Indian embassy in Berlin. This is to send a message to the Indian government about the eviction of tribal peoples from tiger reserves in the name of conservation.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to arrive in Germany today, ahead of the G20 summit this week. Protestors are highlighting the plight of tens of thousands of Indian tribal people, who have been illegally evicted from villages inside tiger reserves, and forced into lives of poverty and misery on the fringes of mainstream society.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has recently issued an order stating that tribal peoples’ rights should not be recognized in critical tiger habitats. The NTCA has no legal authority to issue this order, which is a gross violation of the Forest Rights Act.

The NTCA has ordered that tribal peoples’ rights should not be recognized in critical tiger habitats, a move which could be devastating for tribal peoples.The NTCA has ordered that tribal peoples’ rights should not be recognized in critical tiger habitats, a move which could be devastating for tribal peoples.© Survival

The Act guarantees tribal people the right to live on their ancestral land.

The woman whose face has been projected onto the embassy is from the Baiga people in central India. Thousands of Baiga have been illegally evicted from their forests.

In the past, some were moved into inadequate government resettlement sites, but more recently those evicted received no land or help in establishing their lives outside. Many families report that they have received only a fraction of the compensation they were promised.

Thousands of Indian tribal peoples face eviction from their ancestral lands, which are being turned into tourist-friendly tiger reservesThousands of Indian tribal peoples face eviction from their ancestral lands, which are being turned into tourist-friendly tiger reserves© Survival

Many more communities are facing similar evictions across the country. While tribal people are being evicted, fee-paying tourists are welcomed in. In one tiger reserve, uranium exploration has just been approved.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Modi’s government has continued the inhumane and illegal practice of evicting tribal people from tiger reserves. It’s now planning to ignore tribal peoples’ rights and push ahead with mining and other so-called “development” projects on lands that tribal peoples have been looking after for generations. It’s a con. It’s time the Indian government stopped attacking its own citizens and started abiding by its own laws.”

One of the last Avá Canoeiro Indians dies

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 04:03
Iawí, one of the last survivors of the Avá Canoeiro tribe, pictured in 2000Iawí, one of the last survivors of the Avá Canoeiro tribe, pictured in 2000© Fiona Watson/ Survival (2000)

Iawí, one of the last members of the dwindling Avá Canoeiro tribe, has died from cancer aged about 56 years. His death means just eight Avá Canoeiro remain in his small family group.

Iawí, his wife Tuia, her mother Matcha, and her aunt Naquatcha, were contacted by FUNAI, Brazil’s Indian affairs department, in 1983 as a huge hydroelectric dam was set to drown the Indians’ hilly refuge, the Serra de Mesa.

The government eventually designated a territory for the Avá Canoeiro in 1996.

The tiny group had survived a massacre in 1962 and for two decades sought refuge in caves hidden high up in the mountains.

Incredibly, this group of Avá Canoeiro live only five hours’ drive from Brazil’s capital, Brasília

At night they would come down to raid settlers’ gardens for food. Otherwise they survived by catching small mammals like rats and bats. This precarious existence meant the women had no children during this time.

Since contact, Iawí and Tuia had a son and daughter, Trumak and Putdjawa.

Putdjawa married a Tapirape Indian and the couple have three young children.

Iawí’s death last month will be an enormous blow to the group as he was noted for his humor, his courage in defying contact for so long, and for helping his family to survive many massacres.

The Avá Caneiro are the last remnants of a proud and strong tribe which has been on the run since 1780. For decades they fiercely resisted the white colonists who systematically hunted them down as more and more Indian land was stolen.

Another small group of Avá Canoeiro were contacted in 1973. They now live in a neighbouring state and share a territory with other tribes.

Revealed: Bronx Zoo organization funds serious human rights abuses

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 02:15
Vast swathes of the Bayaka's ancestral homelands in the Republic of Congo have been taken over without their consent by loggers and big conservation NGOs.Vast swathes of the Bayaka's ancestral homelands in the Republic of Congo have been taken over without their consent by loggers and big conservation NGOs.© Lambert Coleman

An investigation by Survival International has revealed that the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the parent organization of New York’s Bronx Zoo, is funding the abuse and eviction of Bayaka “Pygmies" and other rainforest tribes in the Republic of Congo.

WCS manages and helped create a national park on Bayaka land without the tribe’s consent, and has formed a partnership with two logging companies working on their land. WCS is also funding anti-poaching squads which prevent the Bayaka from entering their ancestral lands, and Survival International has documented dozens of instances of harassment, beatings and even torture.

The Bayaka are frequently accused of “poaching” when they they hunt to feed their families. Tribal people have complained that this diverts action away from tackling the true poachers – criminals conspiring with corrupt officials.

Big conservation has failed to prevent widespread logging on tribal land, and has actively contributed to serious human rights abuses.Big conservation has failed to prevent widespread logging on tribal land, and has actively contributed to serious human rights abuses.© Kate Eshelby /Survival

Victims have included children, the elderly and disabled people. In 2012, for example, a severely disabled tribal man was assaulted by guards. In May 2016, one man was hospitalized after he and four others were brutally beaten by guards. Forest camps are frequently destroyed, and tribal people are attacked and tortured for accessing land which they have been dependent on and managed for generations.

A Bayaka man said: “If you go into the park they will get you and take you to prison. Even outside the park they say ‘We’re going to kill you. Get out, get out, get out.’”

Logging in the region continues at unsustainable levels, according to reports by independent researchers and advocacy groups, including Greenpeace. Many observers including the United Nations and Congolese organization l’Observatoire congolais des droits de l’homme, have been warning about the consequences of ecoguard abuse since at least 2004, but no effective action has been taken.

In 2005, a Bayaka man reported that: “We met another white man [from WCS] who came to tell us to stop hunting and that the wildlife guards would make sure we did. Now we are afraid to go far in the forest in case the wildlife guards catch us.”




Watch: Apfela describes how wildlife guards, supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society, brutally attacked her.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Conservation in the Congo Basin is based on land theft. National parks are created on indigenous peoples’ territories without their consent: It’s land-grabbing (with a “green” label) and the big conservation organizations, like WCS, are guilty of supporting it. Survival International is doing all it can to stop this “green colonialism.” It’s time for conservationists to respect land rights, stop stealing tribal peoples’ ancestral homelands, and obtain proper permission for every project they seek to carry out on tribal land."

Background briefing
- WCS is one of the world’s oldest conservation organizations, founded in 1895.
- WCS backed the creation of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in 1993 without the Bayaka’s consent. It manages the park to this day.
- The organization runs an annual “Teddy Roosevelt Award” for conservation. In 2017, the award generated controversy when it was presented to Gabon’s president Ali Bongo, who has been widely criticized for his government’s record of human rights abuse. According to some reports, Bongo donated $3.5m in exchange for the award.

Madison Grant, notorious eugenicist and founder of the organization which would become the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).Madison Grant, notorious eugenicist and founder of the organization which would become the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).© Wikimedia Commons

- The Bronx Zoo and the conservation organization that would become WCS were founded by eugenicist author Madison Grant. Infamously, they brought a “Pygmy” man, Ota Benga, to the zoo in the early 1900s. He was exhibited to the public, and encouraged to live in the zoo’s monkey house. He committed suicide in 1916.
- Bayaka people in the Central African Republic and Republic of Congo wrote open letters to WCS and its funders in 2016.
- The abuse of Bayaka by WCS-supported squads has been documented for at least 18 years, but the organization has failed to take effective action to stop it.

Ota Benga, a Congolese 'Pygmy' man who was transported to the US and exhibited in zoos, before committing suicide in 1916.Ota Benga, a Congolese 'Pygmy' man who was transported to the US and exhibited in zoos, before committing suicide in 1916.© Wikimedia

WCS is not the only multinational NGO implicated in the abuse of tribal peoples. Many of the big conservation organizations are partnering with industry and tourism and destroying the environment’s best allies.

It’s a con. And it’s harming conservation. Survival International is leading the fight against these abuses, for tribes, for nature, for all humanity.

“Pygmy” is an umbrella term commonly used to refer to the hunter-gatherer peoples of the Congo Basin and elsewhere in Central Africa. The word is considered pejorative and avoided by some tribespeople, but used by others as a convenient and easily recognized way of describing themselves.

Some names have been changed to protect tribal people’s identity.

India: Tribal leader dies in police custody – as tribe denounce harassment campaign

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 01:58
Bari Pidikaka, Dongria activist, who died in police custody after being detained in 2015Bari Pidikaka, Dongria activist, who died in police custody after being detained in 2015© Survival

A leader of a tribe in India, which made headlines around the world when it won a David and Goliath battle against a British mining corporation, has died in police custody – following a violent police campaign of harassment and intimidation against activists.

Bari Pidikaka of the Dongria Kondh tribe was arrested and detained on his way back from a protest in October 2015, and died this week.

The Dongria from central India report systematic “intimidation, abduction and wrongful incarceration” of their leaders by state police, who they claim are acting to “further the interests” of Vedanta Resources, a British-based mining company.

Local police also arrested Kuni Sikaka, a 20-year-old Dongria activist and relative of the two most prominent Dongria leaders. She was dragged out of her house at midnight, despite the fact that police had no warrant.

She was then paraded in front of officials and local media as a “surrendered Maoist [member of an armed resistance group]” despite there being no evidence to support this.

Kuni Sikaka has been arrested and paraded in front of the media. She is an activist and a relative of two prominent Dongria leaders.Kuni Sikaka has been arrested and paraded in front of the media. She is an activist and a relative of two prominent Dongria leaders.© Video Republic

Other members of the tribe have also faced brutal harassment. Activist Dasuru Kadraka has been detained without trial for over 12 months. Dongria have been beaten, and tortured with electric wires to force them to stop campaigning for their rights.

With the support of local officials, Vedanta has previously attempted to pressure the tribe into allowing bauxite mining on their ancestral land in the Niyamgiri Hills. In a historic referendum in 2013, the tribe unanimously rejected the proposal.

Since resisting Vedanta's plan to mine their land, many Dongria, including Drimbilli (pictured here) and Kuni, are being systematically arrested and accused of being Maoist guerrillas.Since resisting Vedanta's plan to mine their land, many Dongria, including Drimbilli (pictured here) and Kuni, are being systematically arrested and accused of being Maoist guerrillas.© Video Republic

But the Dongria fear that, as long as Vedanta operates its refinery at the foot of the hills, the threat of mining remains. Those detained claim that police demanded that they stop protesting against the mine.

In an open letter to the President of India, over 100 independent Indian organizations said: “In the last 2-3 years, several Dongria Kondh youth and elders have been arrested, harassed, and killed, and one has committed suicide after repeated harassment and alleged torture by security forces. In none of these cases have [officials] been able to produce evidence linking them to so-called Maoists.”

Vedanta Resources continues to operate a refinery close to the Dongria’s hills, raising concerns that they have not yet abandoned their ambitions for mining in the area.Vedanta Resources continues to operate a refinery close to the Dongria’s hills, raising concerns that they have not yet abandoned their ambitions for mining in the area.© Survival

Dasuru Kadraka said: “I was arrested and taken to the superintendent of police’s office. There I was tortured with my hands tied and electric wires attached to my ears and electric shock given to me, to force me to surrender… and to make me leave the Save Niyamgiri movement. But I refused… The movement is my life, I will never stop protecting the Niyamgiri hills and forests.”

The Dongria Kondh’s right to their ancestral land has been recognized in Indian and international law. Survival International led the global campaign to protect their land, and will continue to fight for the Dongria to be allowed to determine their own futures without harassment.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “It’s now clear that there’s a brutal campaign to harass, intimidate and even murder the Dongria Kondh, to weaken their resistance to the exploitation of their land. But the Dongria are absolutely determined to protect the Hills, which not only provide them with food, housing and clothing, but are also the foundation of their identity and sense of belonging.”

India: Tribe faces eviction from tiger reserve – but uranium exploration approved

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 18:58
The Chenchu have lived alongside tigers in Nallamala Forest, which includes Amrabad tiger reserve, since time immemorial.The Chenchu have lived alongside tigers in Nallamala Forest, which includes Amrabad tiger reserve, since time immemorial.© Survival

Officials in India are threatening to evict a tribe from a tiger reserve in the name of conservation – but have just approved uranium exploration in the same reserve. The move has angered campaigners, who accuse the authorities of hypocrisy.

The Chenchu tribe in Amrabad tiger reserve have pleaded to be allowed to stay on the land which they have been dependent on and managed for millennia.

They say: “The forest department is planning to evict us from this place. We do not want to go anywhere. We protect our forest. If we go outside it is like taking a fish out of the water, it will die… But now the government, for their own profit, is separating the Chenchu from the forest, this is like separating children from their mothers. 

Chenchu woman from Pecheru village. The village was evicted in the ’80s. Chenchu report that of the 750 families that used to live in the village, just 160 families survived after the eviction took place. Many starved to death. Nagarjunsagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve.Chenchu woman from Pecheru village. The village was evicted in the ’80s. Chenchu report that of the 750 families that used to live in the village, just 160 families survived after the eviction took place. Many starved to death. Nagarjunsagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve.© Survival

“The government is selling the forest to mining companies. If we go to the plains areas we will become addicted to alcohol and we will drink and die. In the future the Chenchu will only be seen in photographs and videos. 

“We live in the forest and we will die in the forest. The forest is our mother and our life. Wildlife is our life, without wildlife we cannot live.”

Indian authorities justify their forced evictions of tribal people – which are illegal according to national and international law – on the grounds that any human presence in the reserves is harmful to tigers. However, in many tiger reserves in India, fee-paying tourists are allowed to visit in large numbers, and road-building, mineral exploration and even mining have all taken place.

A Chenchu woman from Amrabad tiger reserve. For the Chenchu, being forest people is an essential part of their identity and pride.A Chenchu woman from Amrabad tiger reserve. For the Chenchu, being forest people is an essential part of their identity and pride.© Survival

Background briefing
- The Chenchu are just one of many Indian tribes facing eviction from their ancestral land. Many Baiga communities have already been evicted in central India, either thrown out to fend for themselves, or moved to government resettlement camps where living standards are frequently dire.
- Indian law requires any evictions to be voluntary, and communities are supposed to be compensated. However, tribal people are rarely informed that they have a guaranteed right to stay, and are often threatened. Compensation money is rarely sufficient to allow them to adapt to life outside the forest, and people often don’t receive what they were promised.
- Amrabad tiger reserve is in Telangana state in southern India.
- The Chenchu lived by hunting and gathering in southern and central India for millennia, until hunting was banned in the 1970s. Government efforts to make them take up farming have been largely resisted by the tribe themselves.
- The Chenchu have an incredible knowledge of their forest and the animals they share it with. They collect 20 different types of fruit and 88 different types of leaves. They see all the animals as both their relations and as gods. Their customs dictate that they should never take more than they need from the forest or waste anything. One Chenchu said: “If outsiders come inside the forest, they will cut all the trees and take away all the fruits; we don’t cut the trees and we take just the fruits we need.”

Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, and his wife, pose after a tiger hunt. India, 1902. Hunting by the Raj elite was the main reason for the decline of the Bengal tiger, yet many conservation efforts are now directed at tribal peoples.Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, and his wife, pose after a tiger hunt. India, 1902. Hunting by the Raj elite was the main reason for the decline of the Bengal tiger, yet many conservation efforts are now directed at tribal peoples.© Wikimedia

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “This is the ultimate in hypocrisy: the authorities want to evict the tribespeople who have managed this environment for millennia, on the pretext that tiger numbers will suffer if the people stay, but then allow in uranium prospectors. It’s a con. And it’s harming conservation. Tourists to Amrabad Tiger Reserve should realize they are supporting a system which could lead to tribal people, the best conservationists, being illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands, and that uranium mines might one day take their place.” 

UN condemns Brazil’s “attack” on indigenous peoples

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 08:59
The UN has condemned Brazil's onslaught on indigenous rights, which threatens to wipe out uncontacted tribes The UN has condemned Brazil's onslaught on indigenous rights, which threatens to wipe out uncontacted tribes © G. Miranda/FUNAI/Survival

The United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have condemned Brazil’s “attack” on its indigenous peoples.

In a new statement, UN and IACHR experts have warned that Brazilian Indians are at great risk as politicians continue pushing to weaken their hard-won land rights.

Brazil’s constitution states that indigenous territories must be mapped out and protected for the Indians’ exclusive use. But anti-indigenous politicians linked to Brazil’s powerful agribusiness lobby are calling for changes to the law which could enable them to steal and destroy these lands for large-scale plantations and “development” projects. This is the most serious attack Brazilian Indians have experienced in decades.

Without their lands, indigenous peoples cannot survive. Tribes nationwide have united in protest against this onslaught on their rights. One indigenous leader, Adalto Guarani, said that the politicians’ plans “are like an atomic bomb… which could kill all the Indians in Brazil” and has called for people around the world to take action.

Brazil is home to over 250 tribes, including over 100 who are uncontacted and reject contact with mainstream society. Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. They face genocide and will be killed by disease and violence brought by invaders if their land is not protected, but the teams charged with keeping outsiders away are paralyzed by recent budget cuts.

The statement slams the “illegitimate criminalization” of indigenous peoples’ allies. The anti-indigenous agribusiness lobby instigated an inquiry whose recently published report attacked indigenous leaders, anthropologists, public prosecutors and NGOs, including Survival International. The report was met with outrage and incredulity in Brazil and beyond.

The experts also highlighted that over the last 15 years, Brazil has seen “the highest number of killings of environmental and land defenders of any country”. Dozens of indigenous leaders have been assassinated in recent years, following attempts to reoccupy their ancestral land, and last month, thirteen Gamela Indians were hospitalized after a violent attack by men armed with machetes in the Amazon.

The UN and the IACHR have recommended that “Brazil should be strengthening institutional and legal protection for indigenous peoples”.

Survival has launched a campaign to defend indigenous rights in Brazil.

Bangladesh: Hundreds of Jumma houses torched by settlers – as army and police stand by

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 04:14
Jumma villagers flee the attack, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh.Jumma villagers flee the attack, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh.© Anonymous

At least 250 houses belonging to Jumma tribal people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, have been burnt to the ground by Bengali settlers. An elderly woman, Guna Mala Chakma, was trapped in her home and burned to death.

The arson attack happened on June 2, after the body of Nurul Islam Nayon, a Bengali motorcycle driver, was found and local people blamed Jummas for his death.

Eyewitnesses say that army and police personnel stood by and did nothing as settlers, protesting against Mr Nayon’s death, went on the rampage, setting fire to Jumma houses and shops in three different villages.

The Bangladesh government has been moving Bengali settlers onto the lands of the Jumma tribal people for more than 60 years. The Jummas have gone from being practically the sole inhabitants of the Hill Tracts to now being outnumbered by settlers.

Tensions between the communities remain high, and violence in one area can often trigger revenge attacks elsewhere.

Settlers have often been allowed to carry out such attacks with impunity, with the security forces ignoring pleas for help from the Jumma community. It has been reported that on June 4, a peaceful protest against the arson attack was violently dispersed by the police and army. Soldiers punched Jumma protestors and beat them with sticks, after demonstrators had called for the perpetrators of the arson attack to be brought to justice.

Survival International is calling for those responsible for the arson attack, and for the death of Nurul Islam Nayon, to be brought to justice. It’s also urging the Bangladesh government to urgently investigate the role of the security forces during the attack on the villages and the subsequent peaceful protest.

Kenya: Victory for Ogiek tribe in historic court ruling

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 07:05
An Ogiek man prepares his bow and arrows.An Ogiek man prepares his bow and arrows.© Yoshi Shimizu

In a landmark decision, the African Court has ruled that the government of Kenya violated the rights of the Ogiek tribe by repeatedly evicting them from their ancestral lands.

The court found that the government had broken seven articles of the African Charter and ordered it to take “all appropriate measures” to remedy the violations.

The Ogiek had sued the government for violations to their right to life, natural resources, religion, culture, property, development and non-discrimination.

The case was brought by the Ogiek Peoples Development Program (OPDP), the Center for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE) and Minority Rights Group International, and was first lodged eight years ago.

Daniel Kobei, director of OPDP said: “For the Ogiek, this is history in the making. The issue of Ogiek land rights has finally been heard and the case has empowered them to feel relevant… This is a chance for the government to restore the Mau [Forest] and to restore the dignity of the Ogiek people".

The Ogiek are a hunter-gatherer tribe who have lived in the Mau Forest in Kenya’s Rift Valley since time immemorial.

They have suffered a long history of discrimination and eviction from their land from colonial times to the present.

This woman's home was demolished during illegal evictions from Ogiek ancestral land.This woman's home was demolished during illegal evictions from Ogiek ancestral land.© Survival

Much of the Ogiek’s rich forest has been invaded and destroyed by outsiders, and converted into logging concessions. Some government officials even attempted to justify the evictions in the name of conservation, by falsely accusing the tribe of destroying the forest.

Evictions are often violent and Ogiek people have been killed and had their homes burned. They have never been consulted about the evictions nor received any compensation.

Last month a UN body expressed its concern over Kenya’s treatment of hunter-gatherer tribes, and called on the government to: “Ensure legal acknowledgement of the collective rights of the Sengwer, the Endorois, the Ogiek and other indigenous peoples to own, develop, control and use their lands, resources and communal territories”.

It is hoped the ruling will set an important precedent for other indigenous land rights cases in Africa.

Gillian Anderson and Mark Rylance launch global campaign for uncontacted tribes

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 01:18
Uncontacted tribal man pictured from the in air 2010 in film footage which subsequently went viral around the world.Uncontacted tribal man pictured from the in air 2010 in film footage which subsequently went viral around the world.© G. Miranda/FUNAI/Survival

Survival International ambassadors Gillian Anderson OBE and Sir Mark Rylance have launched a global campaign for uncontacted tribes – the most vulnerable peoples on the planet.

Both actors are long-standing Survival supporters, and star in a new campaign film.

The film spearheads an international push to protect uncontacted tribes, who face unprecedented threats to their survival. All the government units currently protecting Brazil’s uncontacted tribes from invasion by loggers and ranchers could soon be withdrawn, according to information leaked to Survival.

Uncontacted tribes are being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance. There are more than 100 such tribes around the world, in South America, the Indian Ocean, and West Papua.

Actress and Survival International ambassador Gillian Anderson fronts Survival’s global campaign for uncontacted tribes.Actress and Survival International ambassador Gillian Anderson fronts Survival’s global campaign for uncontacted tribes.© Survival

Iconic actress, author and activist Gillian Anderson said: “The fight for the rights of uncontacted tribes is such an important struggle. It’s about a fundamental principle: their right to determine their own futures and live as they choose, rather than have the outside world take that right away from them.”

Acclaimed film and theater actor Sir Mark Rylance, who won an Oscar in 2016 for his role in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies said: “It’s vital that we protect the rights of uncontacted tribes. Not only are they the most vulnerable people on the planet, but they’re also a vital part of humankind’s diversity. Their knowledge is irreplaceable, and they deserve the right to live as they wish on the land where they have survived for thousands of years.”

Uncontacted tribes are not backward and primitive relics of a remote past. They are our contemporaries. Where their rights are respected, they continue to thrive.

Survival ambassador Sir Mark Rylance with Yanomami leader Davi Yanomami.Survival ambassador Sir Mark Rylance with Yanomami leader Davi Yanomami.© Survival

They are also the best guardians of their environment. And evidence proves that tribal territories are the best barrier to deforestation.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “It’s simple, uncontacted tribes face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Without a global movement fighting for their rights, they simply will not survive into the next generation. We’re grateful for the energy and enthusiasm of Mark and Gillian, who understand this urgency. With their film, we can make the call to let uncontacted tribes live too loud to ignore."

Brazilian politicians push for shutdown of Indian Affairs Department

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 08:16
Major indigenous protests in Brasilia, May 2017Major indigenous protests in Brasilia, May 2017© VOA

An inquiry established by Brazilian parliamentarians who represent the powerful agribusiness lobby has just published a report calling for the closure of the Indian Affairs Department, FUNAI.

Its findings have been met with outrage and incredulity in Brazil and beyond. Francisco Runja, a Kaingang spokesman said: “Killing off FUNAI is tantamount to killing us, the indigenous peoples. FUNAI is a crucial institution for us; our survival; our resistance; and it’s a guarantee of the demarcation of our traditional territories.”

The report attacks indigenous leaders, anthropologists, public prosecutors and NGOs, including Survival International.

It alleges that FUNAI has become a “hostage to external interests” and calls for dozens of its officials to be prosecuted for backing what it calls “illegal demarcations” of tribal territories.

Yesterday a group of 50 Indians was barred from attending the session in congress discussing the inquiry.

The inquiry took 500 days and the report is over 3,300 pages long. It is a blatant attack on indigenous peoples and a crude and biased attempt to destroy their hard-won constitutional rights.

It was headed by politicians representing Brazil’s powerful agri-businesses who have long coveted indigenous territories for their own financial gain.

Photo of a Gamela victim of the attack.Photo of a Gamela victim of the attack.© Anon

One member, congressman Luis Carlos Heinze, received Survival’s Racist of the Year award in 2014 following his deeply offensive remarks about Brazilian Indians, homosexuals, and black people.

Another member, congressman Alceu Moreira, called for the eviction of tribal people attempting to reoccupy their ancestral lands.

The increasingly hostile, anti-indigenous climate in many sectors in congress is fuelling violence against indigenous peoples. Last month, 22 Gamela Indians were injured following a brutal attack at the hands of local landowners’ gunmen.

FUNAI has suffered severe budget cuts, which have resulted in the grounding of several teams responsible for protecting uncontacted tribes’ territories. This effectively leaves the most some of the most vulnerable people on the planet to the mercy of armed loggers and land grabbers.

The organization has been greatly weakened. Many staff have been made redundant, and political appointees now run key departments.

In the last five months, it has had three presidents. Earlier this month the second president, Antonio Costa was dismissed. In a press conference he strongly criticized President Temer and Osmar Serraglio, the Minister of Justice, stating that they “not only want to finish off FUNAI, but also public policies such as demarcation of [indigenous] land… This is very serious.”

Yanomami shaman and spokesman Davi Kopenawa said: “FUNAI is broken… it is already dead. They killed it. It only exists in name. A nice name, but it doesn’t have the power to help us.”

Indian authorities harass tribal leaders

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 05:56
The Dongria have resisted attempts to mine in their hills for years, but are facing serious pressure to give inThe Dongria have resisted attempts to mine in their hills for years, but are facing serious pressure to give in© Survival

The Indian government is harassing and attempting to silence the leaders of the Dongria Kondh tribe, famous for winning a “David and Goliath” court battle against a British mining giant.

The Dongria’s resistance to mining on their lands has continued since their landmark victory in 2014. Leaders including Dodi Pusika feel that the risk of mining remains as long as a refinery is operational at the foot of the Niyamgiri hills, an area which the tribe have been dependent on and managed for generations. A recent protest at the refinery was met with a baton-charge from police.

Pusika’s daughter-in-law, Kuni Sikaka, was arrested in the middle of the night of May 3 and accused of links with armed Maoist rebels. In exchange for her release, Dodi Pusika and other members of his family were made to “surrender” as Maoists and paraded in front of the media.

There has been an alarming increase in arbitrary, politically motivated arrests of tribal people who are resisting mining operations or government policies which endanger their lands and communities. Typically, those arrested are accused of Maoist links – usually without evidence.

Human rights activist and doctor Binayak Sen and tribal teacher Soni Sori have both been imprisoned for alleged Maoist connections and only subsequently released after national and international campaigns.

In April, the Home Ministry issued a report claiming that Maoists were “guiding the activities” of the Dongria’s organization, the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS). On the contrary, Maoists instructed the Dongria to boycott the very meetings at which they delivered their decisive “no” to mining.

Lingaraj Azad, a member of the NSS, stated, ‘We have always opposed violence – either State violence or Maoist violence. We will not bow down, but continue our struggle to protect Niyamgiri from being mined.’

Survival is calling on the government to drop these fabricated charges, stop this persecution of the Dongria Kondh, respect their decision about the Niyamgiri mine, and to uphold their right to protect their lands and determine their own futures.

Twentieth anniversary of eviction from Kalahari highlights Bushmen plight

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 03:56
Many Bushmen were moved to a government resettlement camp called New Xade in 1997Many Bushmen were moved to a government resettlement camp called New Xade in 1997© Noam Schimmel/Survival

Twenty years ago today, hundreds of Bushmen were ordered to abandon their homes deep in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

This was the first in a wave of evictions by the government, determined to open up their ancestral homes to diamond mining and tourism.

The Bushmen of Xade community were given no warning and were ordered to leave their homes immediately. They were herded onto trucks and those who refused to do so were told they would be shot by the army.

Along with force, underhand tactics were employed: some Bushman children and their teachers were moved earlier, forcing anxious parents to follow them to the eviction camp, New Xade, which they soon dubbed “the Place of Death”.

Life here, as witnessed by Survival campaigners and much of the world’s media, was bleak. Bushmen were housed in tents like refugees and were totally reliant on handouts from the government.

Many succumbed to HIV/AIDS and alcoholism introduced by outsiders, who flocked to the camp to profit from the Bushmen’s meager compensation money.

From resilient hunters and gatherers with a strong sense of independence and identity, the Bushmen were reduced to a life of boredom, depression and hopelessness which continues to this day.

For many observers, the government’s inhumane treatment of Botswana’s first people echoed neighboring South Africa’s apartheid regime, where black communities were systemically evicted from their homes and dumped into crowded slums on the outskirts of the cities.

This was the latest chapter in centuries of persecution of southern Africa’s Bushman peoples by white colonists and Bantu peoples.

Bushmen celebrate the landmark court ruling in 2006. More than a decade on, many still languish in govenrment camps.Bushmen celebrate the landmark court ruling in 2006. More than a decade on, many still languish in govenrment camps.© Survival International

Twenty years on, however, there have been some positive changes. Bushmen evicted from the reserve in 2002 won a landmark case with support from Survival International in 2006 in Botswana’s high court. The court ruled that they had been illegally evicted and had the right to live and hunt in the reserve.

Today, hundreds of Bushmen have left the hated eviction camps and returned home. However, they continue to face harassment, beatings, and torture by wildlife scouts when they exercise their legal right to hunt.

As Bushman spokesman Jumanda Gakelebone explains: “Bushmen are not poachers. We hunt to survive, we don’t kill animals in large quantities. We get what we want to survive.”

Families are still being broken up, as the government says that only individuals who were applicants in the high court ruling are allowed to return to the CKGR. When their children turn 18, they have to get permits to visit their families in the reserve. This is causing enormous distress and hardship.

Bushmen are worried that their land may be opened up to more exploration without their consent. Although the diamond mine in the Bushman community of Gope in the reserve has been scaled back recently, last month the government gave new diamond prospecting licenses to a joint Russian-British mining venture.

In the last few years, the government has also given out fracking licenses in the CKGR.

As one Bushman told Survival: “Giving companies clearance to extract natural resources is at our expense and is against our human rights.”

Survival is continuing to campaign for the rights of the Bushmen, having launched a global push in 2016, to coincide with the country’s fiftieth anniversary.

Horrific: Ranchers attack and mutilate Indians who demanded their land back

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 03:46
This cellphone photo shows the ranchers on their way to attack the Gamela. A police car accompanies them.This cellphone photo shows the ranchers on their way to attack the Gamela. A police car accompanies them.© CIMI

Thirteen Brazilian Indians have been hospitalized after a brutally violent attack by men armed with machetes in the Amazon.

One man appears to have had his arms severed in disturbing photos released to Survival International.

The attack was in retaliation for the Gamela Indians’ campaign to recover a small part of their ancestral territory. Their land has been invaded and destroyed by ranchers, loggers and land grabbers, forcing the Gamela to live squeezed on a tiny patch of land. The Gamela are indigenous to the area in Maranhão state in northern Brazil.  

Powerful agribusiness interests – reportedly including the Sarney landowning family – have been in conflict with the tribe for some time. The family includes a former president of Brazil and a former governor of Maranhão state.

Eyewitnesses say that the ranchers gathered at a barbecue to get drunk, before surrounding the Gamela camp, firing guns, and then attacking with machetes, causing grievous injuries. Local police are reported to have stood by and allowed the attack to happen.

The Gamela have received death threats in response to their attempts to return to their land. In a declaration released by Brazilian NGO CIMI, they said: “People are mistaken if they think that by killing us they’ll put a stop to our fight. If they kill us, we will just grow again, like seeds… Neither fear nor the ranchers’ bullets can stop us.”

The attack came just days after massive indigenous protests in Brazil’s capital against proposed changes to Brazil’s indigenous laws, which could have disastrous consequences for tribal peoples.

Land theft is the biggest problem tribal peoples face. Around the world, industrialized society is stealing tribal lands in the pursuit of profit.

Campaigners fear that the close ties between Brazil’s agribusiness lobby and the Temer government installed after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in 2016 could lead to further genocidal violence and racism against Brazilian tribal peoples.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Right now, we’re witnessing the biggest assault on Brazilian Indians for the last two generations. This truly horrific attack is symptomatic of a sustained and brutal onslaught which is annihilating indigenous communities across the country. Heinous acts like this won’t end until the perpetrators are prosecuted and Brazil starts enforcing tribal land rights as it should do under national and international law.”